Navalny speaks

I wrote about Vladimir Putin’s poisoning of Alex Navalny in “Inside Putin’s underpants op.” It’s an incredible story. For background I recommend Leonid Bershidsky’s January 18 Bloomberg column “Navalny vs. Putin is an epic existential battle.” Perhaps even more incredible is Navalny’s subsequent return to Russia. Bershidsky’s column on Navalny’s return is here.

Having returned to Russia, Navalny has now been sentenced to prison for three and a half years. If I understand correctly, however, the judge kindly credited Navalny’s prior one-year imprisonment against the sentence he is now to serve. The Wall Street Journal reported on the scene inside the courtroom:

Mr. Navalny, who was kept in a glass cage throughout the hearing, laughed to himself as the judge read the lengthy verdict. He drew a heart with his finger and looked at his wife, Yulia, as the judge neared the end of the sentencing.

During his testimony, the opposition politician blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for a poisoning attack against him last year and called the court proceedings an act of cowardice. Striking at the image of Mr. Putin as a master strategist, he said the Kremlin leader never fought his enemies fairly.

“[Putin’s] only method is killing people,” Mr. Navalny said. “For as much as he pretends to be a great geopolitician, he’ll go down in history as a poisoner.”

* * * * *

Russian prosecutors say Mr. Navalny violated conditions of a suspended sentence from 2014 by failing to check in regularly with prison authorities while he was recovering in Germany from a near-fatal poison attack last year. The 3½-year sentence credits the time Mr. Navalny served under house arrest, leaving him to serve 32 months behind bars.

The sentence temporarily removes a longtime thorn in the Kremlin’s side, an opposition leader who aimed to unseat the ruling United Russia in parliamentary elections later this year.

Today the New York Times has published excerpts of Navalny’s comments in court on Tuesday under the heading “Vladimir the Poisoner of Underpants.” Among other things, Navalny notes:

The reason why it all happened is one man’s hatred and fear — one man hiding in a bunker. I mortally offended him by surviving an attempt at my life he ordered. … I mortally offended him by surviving, thanks to good people, thanks to pilots and doctors. And then I committed an even more serious offense: I didn’t go into hiding, didn’t start living under protection in a smaller bunker I could afford.

Then something truly terrifying happened … I participated in the investigation of my own poisoning, and we showed and proved, that it was Putin who, using Russia’s Federal Security Service, exercised this attempted murder. … And that’s driving this thieving little man in his bunker out of his mind. The fact that it all came to light.

There’s no popularity ratings. No massive support. There’s none of that. Because it turns out that dealing with a political opponent who has no access to television and no political party merely requires trying to kill him with a chemical weapon. So, of course, he’s losing his mind over this. Because everyone was convinced that he’s just a petty bureaucrat who was accidentally appointed to his position.

He’s never participated in any debates or campaigned in an election. Murder is the only way he knows how to fight. … He’ll go down in history as nothing but a poisoner. We all remember Alexander the Liberator [Alexander II] and Yaroslav the Wise [Yaroslav I]. Well, now we’ll have Vladimir the Poisoner of Underpants — that’s how he will go down in history. …

John McCormack links to the full translation of Navalny’s remarks here and embeds the Twitter video below. I concur with McCormack that “the courage Alexei Navalny displays in this speech in court is breathtaking[.]”

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